Boost for German carrier

Two companies have acquired substantial minority stakes in Air Berlin, Germany’s second biggest carrier.

Tui Travel plc, part of the large German owned Tui group, has entered a strategic partnership with Air Berlin under which it will acquire a 19.9% stake in the airline.

The second investor is the Turkish conglomerate ESAS Holdings which already operates another low cost carrier Pegasus Airlines, the second largest carrier in Turkey.

It has bought a 15.3% holding in Air Berlin from UBS, the Swiss bank.

This represents much of the 18.9% holding sold last January by Access Industries, a company owned by Len Blavatnik, a Russian entrepreneur.

Under the strategic partnership deal with Tui Travel, Air Berlin will take a 19.9% stake in two German airlines, Hapag-Lloyd Fluggesellschaft and TUIfly.

Air Berlin said the “central component of the agreement” with Tui is for the city flight business of TUIfly to be transferred to Air Berlin starting with the winter flight schedule 2009/10.

Of the 38 aircraft that TUIfly will operate from 2010, 17 will be chartered to Air Berlin via a long term wet lease, including the crews.

The remaining 21 will be operated in future under the TUIfly brand purely for TUI Deutschland tourism flights.

Joachim Hunold

, Air Berlin’s ceo, said: “This strategic alliance (with TUI) gives Air Berlin access to three economically highly interesting markets: Cologne, Stuttgart and Italy.

“In this manner, Air Berlin can expand its European as well as its domestic route network, which is especially important to our business passengers.

“At the same time the position of TUIfly and Air Berlin will improve in this challenging economic environment.

“The corporate integration will strengthen both companies, allowing them to further expand their positions in a consolidated European airline market.”

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